A high achieving medical doctor with an MD who aced the German naturalisation test, but refused to shake hands with the female official handing over his citizenship papers has had his citizenship request rejected by a German court.
The 40-year-old Lebanese doctor, who came to Germany in 2002, said he refuses to shake women’s hands for religious reasons.
The Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg ruled that people who reject a handshake due to a “fundamentalist conception of culture and values” because they see women as “a danger of sexual temptation” are thereby rejecting “integration into German living conditions.”
The doctor studied medicine in Germany and now works as a senior physician in a clinic. He applied for citizenship through naturalisation in 2012, for which he signed a declaration of loyalty to the German constitution and against extremism. He passed the naturalization test with the best possible score.
Nevertheless, he was not granted citizenship because he refused to shake hands with the responsible official when the naturalization certificate was handed over in 2015. The woman therefore withheld the certificate and rejected the application.
The court found that anyone who refuses to shake hands on gender-specific grounds is in breach of the equality enshrined in the German constitution. In addition, the man’s refusal in this case had the effect of lending validity to a “Salafist perspective” on the social ramifications of relations between men and women.
As a Rabbi I would point out that ultra-orthodox Jewish men also do not shake hands with a woman; and I am sure that they have not been rejected for for German citizenship. The situation is similar to other movements in various European states to forbid Islamic and Jewish slaughter rituals.
I believe that a joint Jewish and Muslim appeal to a higher court based on religious rights for minorities would be be a better path than saying, as the doctor did, that it was a promise to his wife.
For example, five years ago on 1 October 2015 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nullified its earlier recommendation that European countries ban ritual circumcision, when it passed (73-6) a resolution on religious freedom.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe did not reverse its earlier recommendation due to recent scientific discoveries which explained the health benefit of circumcision; but due to the active political pressure of an alliance of Jewish and Muslim organizations.
Allen S. Maller is an ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. His web site is: www.rabbimaller.com. Rabbi Maller blogs in the Times of Israel. His book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles previously published by Islamic web sites) is for sale ($15) on Amazon.